Kashmir remains cut off for 3rd day, hundreds stranded

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Srinagar, Jan 18 (UNI) About two thousand passengers and truckers were stranded on the 300-km-long Srinagar-Jammu national highway which remained closed for the third day today following landslides and heavy snowfall.

It was still snowing heavily at Jawahar tunnel and Banihal sectors while rains triggered landslides and shooting of stones at Penthal, the most troubled spot on the highway, linking the Kashmir valley with the rest of the country, official sources told UNI here.

They said no fresh vehicle was allowed to leave Srinagar or Jammu this morning as about one feet of snow had accumulated near the tunnel and Banihal.

Sources said about 2,000 passengers besides drivers and conductors of trucks and other vehicles were stranded on the highway for the past three days.

They said traffic from the summer and winter capitals of the state would be allowed only when all the stranded vehicles were cleared.

However, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), responsible for the maintenance of the highway has pressed into service more than 200 labourers and 40 sophisticated machines to clear the highway.

A BRO official said about 70 per cent of the snow clearance operation was completed last evening. However, due to fresh snowfall it would now take few more hours to clear the remaining accumulated snow, he added.

But, he said, the main concern for the authorities was Penthal, where shooting of stones and landslides continued throughout the night because of heavy rains.

Operation to clear the hurdles at this troubled spot will be taken up once the landslides and shooting of stones would stop, he said, adding that it will be very risky to allow traffic untill stones stop rolling down from the hill top.

A footballer was killed after he was hit in the head by a stone in the same area last week when traffic on the highway also remained closed for several days.

More than 3,000 people were also stranded at Jammu and Srinagar because of highway closure.

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